Other Crops

Canola is a booming crop in Canada. Canola oil is the second most widely used oil (behind soybean oil) in North America’s food industry, and for good reason: it offers healthy omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, a high smoke point and neutral flavour. And for the past two decades, highly stable high-oleic canola oil has offered additional benefits – an even higher smoke point, as well as better stability for longer-term use in deep fryers.

While acreage of canola is substantial in Canada’s Prairie provinces and fairly steady in Ontario, acreage of canola in the Maritimes has dropped in recent years. In 2013, there were 1,106 acres of canola grown in Prince Edward Island. This number has dropped to only 776 acres in 2014, with fewer than 700 acres estimated for 2015. However, Danny Doyle, a spokesperson for the Prince Edward Island Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, says there is canola research planned. He notes farmers in that province would like to see non-GMO varieties with good clubroot resistance and yield potentials of one metric ton per acre.

New Brunswick’s canola acreage has also drastically dropped in recent years. In 2011, the province grew 10,000 acres of the crop; in 2012, that number dropped to 7,500, then to 6,000 in 2014, and in 2015, only 2,000 acres of canola were grown in New Brunswick. Peter Scott, a crop specialist in the New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, says acreage has shrunk because the forward contract price of canola has dropped off, and a fair amount of clubroot infection in 2014 caused farmers to pause. “It’s always a concern how canola fits a potato rotation,” he adds. “Some growers were producing hybrid canola seed from 2000 to 2005, but some saw potatoes following canola with reduced yields. The thinking is that nitrogen is being tied up to break down the canola residue, and this starves potatoes at a critical time.”

As for Nova Scotia, commercial canola acreage is presently nothing, says Doug MacDonald, scientific officer for the Cereal and Oilseed Research Group in the faculty of agriculture at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “There is only a very small acreage grown by a handful of people,” he notes, “which is crushed in their own small presses for sale at farmers markets or for their own biodiesel.”

However, a great deal of canola research is underway in Nova Scotia. Scientists in the province have been conducting Ontario spring canola variety tests since 2005 (winter canola tests were also done over several years but were discontinued due to limited interest). “The spring canola yields in our small plot tests have averaged approximately 2.7 tons per hectare over the past four seasons,” notes MacDonald. “Winter canola yields have been similar and occasionally better when winter survival is good, which varies greatly from year to year. Complete winterkill is common with the current genotypes available. There is also the concern, with spring or winter canola, of disease buildup – particularly sclerotinia, which can infect some crops used in rotation with canola such as soybeans and potatoes.”  

There is also ongoing canola research headed by Prince Edward Island-based Eastern Canadian Oilseed Development Alliance (ECODA), a five-year, $6.7-million canola and soybean research project launched in 2013. It involves researchers in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes and is funded through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and industry partners. “One project involves winter canola variety evaluation, seeding dates and rates,” explains MacDonald. Jan Holmes, ECODA project manager, says early results showed the varieties of winter canola in the trial had a difficult time surviving, but there may be other varieties that can survive the eastern Canadian winters, and more evaluation is occurring.

A second ECODA project is looking at canola nutrient management; particularly the response of various hybrids to nitrogen, nitrogen/sulphur and boron. MacDonald says the results will help scientists identify nutrient deficiency levels and develop improved guidelines for site-specific management. Preliminary results show at as N rates were increased, early flowering, plant biomass, height and leaf area all increased as well. “For all site-years, branch and seed numbers also increased with increasing N, sometimes significantly,” says Holmes, “but sidedressed N did not affect yield. Soil sulphur availability and sulphur mineralization potential must be considered for site-specific sulphur recommendations.”

The development of effective integrated pest management (IPM) practices for swede midge is also in the works. So far, results show that early and middle pesticide applications are more effective than later ones, but the effect of applications was variable. IPM strategies for the control of other insect pests of canola (flea beetle, pollen beetle and cabbage seedpod weevil) are also being created.

Yet another canola study is focusing on how such factors as crop rotation, nutrient management, planting date and plant density affect the incidence and severity of diseases like stem rot and blackleg. A different project involves determining the effect of fungicides, biological agents, marine bioproducts and combination treatments for the control of these diseases. Further experiments will show the effects of plant population on stress tolerance and seed quality of spring canola, and how canola can best be integrated in a potato cropping system.

“We’re also conducting field trials with best formulations of signal compounds,” Holmes explains, “and have found so far that signal compounds LCO and thuricin at extremely low concentrations slightly increased yield in winter canola. Full study results have the potential to lead to the development of new products, which, in turn, will lead to increased yields.”

Even though it will take more time for the full results of these studies to become available, Holmes believes canola is already economically competitive with small-grain cereals. “It’s a high-value crop that can be useful in rotation with potatoes, corn and soybean,” she says. “Canola is a viable crop option for Eastern Canadian growers, even Maritimes growers who must transport the seed to Quebec for crushing.”

Most eastern Canadian producers have considered whether tile drainage is right for their operations. According to Harold Rudy, executive officer of research and business development for the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA), more than 50 per cent of the agricultural land in southern Ontario is tile drained. In many areas of the province, tile drainage facilitates timely field operations and helps decrease the risk of crop damage during heavy rainfall events.
Tree-based intercropping – growing trees together with crops – is a historical agricultural practice. These days primarily smallholder farmers use it in tropical systems, but researchers are focused on potential applications in the temperate soils of southern Ontario and Quebec.
Winter wheat
The wheat crop continues to grow rapidly in the cool moist conditions and is 5-10 days ahead of normal in general. Following up on last week’s report, by the time sprayers are able to be back in the field, the weed stage and competition from the crop canopy will likely negate herbicide use in most situations.

These weather conditions favour disease growth and although current disease levels remain low in most fields this can change quickly. Septoria leaf spot and powdery mildew are the most common diseases present currently and primarily still situated in the lower canopy. Last week leaf rust was found in Bruce County as well as wheat spindle streak mosaic virus was confirmed in Essex County. With the rapid growth of the crop and favourable weather conditions, it is important to continue scouting to determine if fungal disease infection is progressing up the plant (especially on susceptible varieties) and if a fungicide application is needed. With the rapid growth of the crop, scouting for effectively timing fungicide applications is critical. Crop growth stage, climatic conditions, variety susceptibility, presence of or anticipation of disease are all considerations that go into the decision if and whether a fungicide application is needed.

Stripe rust at very low levels was found in one field in Essex County last week on a susceptible variety. The infection was mid canopy which considering the recent storm systems, would suggest spore movement into Ontario from the Midwest US and not overwintering. Unfortunately, weather conditions favor further stripe rust development and spread. As was seen last year, there are large differences in variety susceptibility to the disease. Check with your seed supplier and the Ontario OCCC performance trials for specific variety ratings. All wheat growers should be scouting for stripe rust and based on last years’ experience, a preventative fungicide applied to susceptible varieties was beneficial and a good integrated wheat disease management strategy. Fields planted with susceptible varieties should spray while those with tolerant or resistant varieties need to regularly assess fields from now until heading to assess stripe rust risk.

Very little progress has been made in corn planting as wet weather continues to delay fieldwork. But the consequences of getting on fields too quickly can be significant. Everyone is fixated on the importance of early planting date. What is forgotten is the statement “given field conditions that are fit for planting” which should precede any mention of early planting date. The fitness of the soil for planting is always the most important consideration, and then planting date.

Weather is the biggest factor and we can’t control it but we can to some degree manage around it. If you compromise the crop right from the start, its ability to buffer against other weather and stress extremes will be compromised. Plant by soil conditions, not the calendar.

If there is only a small window to plant, it's best to plant first and apply nitrogen afterwards provided you have the means to do so.

When planters start rolling, some may try and get ahead by speeding up planting. Unless your planter is setup for it and the field conditions can take it, you are likely not helping yourself. Cutting corners on planting pays no dividends. The continued cool forecast means we have not lost much heat with the seed still in the bag. Last week Wednesday to yesterday we achieved only 10-20 CHU across the province. It takes 180 CHUs from planning to emergence.

While a few acres of beans have been seeded, field conditions have not allowed for large scale seeding. Early planting is less critical to yield for soybeans than corn. Soybeans planted in mid-May often have the highest yield potential. Something to consider while waiting to get back in the field is seed size. Soybean seed size tends to be large this year and this has implications for planting equipment. Ensure that your equipment is set up to deliver whole seed effectively to the ground. A split seed will not survive. Soybean seed supply is tight in many zones so ensure you have your needs confirmed. Last year’s weather hurt seed quality resulting in a lower volume of high quality seed being available. Trying to switch corn acres to beans as the planting season condenses may be difficult.
Field scouting is an essential part of integrated pest management, used to examine all aspects of crop production to achieve optimum yield. Scouting is the process of monitoring crop development in each of your fields to evaluate crop concerns and economic risks from potential pests and diseases.
The relationship between bees and canola is strong, just ask any honey producer. But what benefits do canola growers receive from those colonies parked at the corner of a field? New research in Alberta is delving in to that sweet subject.
Research shows you can get those healthy omega-3 fatty acids not only from eating ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil, but also from the eggs, meat and milk of flaxseed-fed poultry, swine and cattle. Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise the Canadian flax industry is working to enhance and expand omega-3 opportunities with flaxseed feed and focusing on how flaxseed feed’s many healthy attributes can benefit animals, livestock producers and feed processors while expanding the flaxseed feed market for growers.
I call them my second herd,” says Brian Slenders, an alfalfa and canola seed and livestock producer near Scandia, Alta., and president of the Alfalfa Seed Commission of Alberta.
Diversified crop rotations are an important component of western Canadian cropping systems. Although crops like wheat and canola are the largest acreage crops, adding special crops into the rotation helps manage weed, disease and insect pest problems and potential resistance issues, improves soil health and maximizes profitability. However, determining which crop fits best in the cropping sequence remains a big question.
A recently discovered mycorrhizal fungus, Pirifomospora indica, holds promise for improving canola production. Ajit Verma, a professor in Jawaharlal Nehru University’s School of Life Sciences in New Delhi, discovered the fungus on orchid plants in the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, India. Since the discovery of P. indica, scientists around the world have been working to understand the benefits of the fungus.  
Hulless barley, pioneered at Virginia Tech, adds a new dimension to this grain. With a higher starch content and better proteins compared to hulled barley, it’s also a good choice for double-cropping with soybeans since it ripens earlier. | READ MORE
Drought-tolerant wheat may exist on some mountaintop in Nepal, but in the laboratories of wheat breeders, it is truly elusive. It’s on the priority list, but don’t look for significant changes coming any faster than climate change.
In hemp fields across Canada, farmers spend months planting, watering and weeding the hemp. But when harvest time comes, part of the plant is tossed aside, even though it’s quite valuable.

While growing industrial hemp was legalized in 1998, the plant was classified as a narcotic product, meaning it’s treated as a controlled substance. For farmers, that meant they could only harvest the plant’s seeds and tough stalk to make fibres, but could not sell the leaves containing cannabidiol (CBD).

Russ Crawford is the president of the Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance (CHTA) and calls the regulation a wasted opportunity. After doing the math, the numbers are staggering: over 2.4 billion grams of hemp containing CBD is potentially left in Canadian fields. | READ MORE
While most other crops have research dollars devoted to improving yield, pest and herbicide resistance, and input management, sorghum has been left behind in the move towards genetic improvements, better management options and pest reduction.
Farmers in P.E.I. have the warm fall weather to thank for the extended seeding season of winter wheat and other cover crops. One farmer said he was able to plant more than 1,600 acres of cover crops to help with his crop rotation in the spring. | READ MORE
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